Custer wins at Texas for shot at NASCAR Xfinity title
By STEPHEN HAWKINS
FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) Cole Custer's first career victory at Homestead last year wasn't for the NASCAR Xfinity championship.
When he gets back to South Florida in two weeks, the 20-year-old Custer will have a chance to win a title there.
Custer locked in one of the four championship-contending spots for the season finale with his second career win. He regained the lead and won at Texas on Saturday when he pushed past rookie driver Tyler Reddick on the final lap soon after a restart.
"We haven't won all year but we have been so close. It starts to frustrate you," Custer said. "We kept going and this is a perfect time to do it."
The final restart with two laps left came after the 13th caution, the most ever in an Xfinity race at Texas. The final charge to the finish left Custer's No. 00 Ford with a winning margin of .162 of a second, the third-closest at the 1 1/2-mile track.
Custer, who led four times for 16 laps, went low near the bumper of Reddick's No. 9 Chevrolet in Turn 1 on the 200th and final lap and got past for the lead. Both drivers maintained control when they made hard contact on the backstretch.
Reddick, who led a race-high 54 laps, did take over the series points lead from retiring driver Elliott Sadler, who finished eighth and dropped to second in points.
There are three championship-contending spots for Homestead that will be decided next week at Phoenix.
Daniel Hemric is third in points, ahead of Justin Allgaier, Matt Tifft and Custer.
Christopher Bell, the polesitter at Texas, finished 32nd in the 39-car field after being unable to avoid the wall on a second spin with 68 laps left. He dropped to seventh in points. Third-place finisher Austin Cindric is eighth.
After starting from the pole, Bell went sliding sideway in front of the field out of the first turn on the first lap. He avoided the wall, then restarted 32nd before making his way back to the front to lead 35 laps.
"I don't know if it's the tire combination or what," Bell said. "It caught me off guard at the start of the race. I didn't feel I was up to speed and all of a sudden I spun out."
Then with 68 left, Cindric moved up the track in Turn 3 and made contact with Bell, who wound up in the wall.
Bell entered the race fourth in points, even after crashing two laps into the previous race. Now he will to win at Phoenix to get into the final four at Homestead. He has won a rookie-record six races this year.
"I still have a chance to win two more," he said.
Cindric got damage on his No. 22 Ford after he was among eight other cars that got caught up in the melee when Bell went sliding on the first lap. The late contact with Bell certainly didn't help.
"Had damage from lap one of the race when they had that big stack up and I nursed that damage," Cindric said. "That damage got worse and then our contact with the 20 later made that worse. We were basically damaged the whole day. I honestly think we had a race winning car and I think that shows in the final stint."
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Updated November 3, 2018